Special Report

This Is the American City Where the Most People Are in the Military

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20. Hilton Head Island-Bluffton, SC
> Military members and their families: 7.9% of pop. (17,502)
> Largest military base: Parris Island Marine Corps Recruit Depot
> Service branch with largest presence: Marine Corps
> Veterans: 8.4% of pop. (18,589)

The Hilton Head, South Carolina, area is perhaps better known as a resort community and vacation destination, but for 17,500 military personnel and their families, it is home. The Parris Island Marine Corps Recruit Depot, located in the Hilton Head metro area, serves as a basic training facility of the U.S. Marine Corps. As of 2019, over 7,400 active duty Marines were stationed at the base.

Hilton Head is one of two metro areas in South Carolina to rank on this list and one of many more in the Southern United States.

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19. Great Falls, MT
> Military members and their families: 8.3% of pop. (6,792)
> Largest military base: Malmstrom Air Force Base
> Service branch with largest presence: Air Force
> Veterans: 11.9% of pop. (9,659)

The Malmstrom Air Force Base, located in Great Falls, Montana, houses 150 intercontinental ballistic missiles. It is also home to nearly 6,800 active-duty Air Force service members and their dependents. Due to the base’s presence, 8.3% of the total metro area population are either active-duty military or dependents.

Military personnel and their families are outnumbered in Great Falls by former military personnel, however. Nearly 10,000 people in the metro area, or about 12% of the total population, are veterans.

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18. Hanford-Corcoran, CA
> Military members and their families: 9.2% of pop. (14,119)
> Largest military base: Lemoore Naval Air Station
> Service branch with largest presence: Navy
> Veterans: 5.0% of pop. (7,719)

The Hanford-Corcoran, California, metro area is one of only a handful of military cities where the Navy is the dominant branch. The Lemoore Naval Air Station, located about 20 miles west of Hanford, has 6,590 active-duty sailors and 7,529 of their dependents assigned to it. Those service members and their families account for 9.2% of the total metro area population.

The air station is one of the busiest airfields in the Navy, conducting more than 200,000 flight operations annually, and it has grown rapidly in recent years. The base’s primary function is to provide support, through training, equipment, and personnel, to the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

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17. Sumter, SC
> Military members and their families: 9.3% of pop. (13,103)
> Largest military base: Shaw Air Force Base
> Service branch with largest presence: Air Force
> Veterans: 8.3% of pop. (11,600)

There are about 140,500 people living in Sumter, South Carolina — and 9.3% of them are active-duty military personnel and their dependents. The high concentration of military families in the area is because of the presence of Shaw Air Force Base, which is one of the oldest Air Force bases in the country.

Shaw is home to the 20th Fighter Wing — the largest combat F-16 wing in the Air Force. The base, and the servicemen and servicewomen stationed there, have an annual economic impact on Sumter estimated at $2.5 billion, according to the city.

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16. Bremerton-Silverdale-Port Orchard, WA
> Military members and their families: 9.7% of pop. (26,448)
> Largest military base: Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton
> Service branch with largest presence: Navy
> Veterans: 11.8% of pop. (32,118)

Nearly one in every 10 residents of the Bremerton-Silverdale-Port Orchard, Washington, metro area are either military personnel or their family. The service members are assigned to the Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton, which provides support to the Navy’s fleet in the Pacific Northwest. Formed in 2004 through the consolidation of five other naval stations, NB Kitsap is now the third largest Navy base in the United States.

The base is estimated to have contributed $4.0 billion in economic activity in the region in fiscal 2017.

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